Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The days after Durga Pujo bring with them a peculiar mood of introspection. After the madness and the subversion of night and day, the overeating and the excitement of the lights and the crowds, the sudden peace and absence of festivities make people break out in strange ways.

Aniruddha, the young boy from three houses down the road, found life especially flat. For three magical days and nights he had worked alongside Minu at the pandal. He had not had the courage to approach her as she sat chatting with her friends on the chairs late into the nights, but the mornings were his time and he had used them well. From soulfully handing her the flowers to pass around during the Ashtami anjali to smiling at her meaningfully as he served her bhog, Aniruddha hadn’t let a chance to display his devotion – to Minu as well as Ma Durga. Now, though, life was back to normal, and he hadn’t had the courage to more than mumble “Subho Bijoya” to her as he passed her down the street. And she still didn’t show any sign of having understood the extent of his attachment! Aniruddha brooded by the window sill and wondered if a poem would be any easier to write than a love letter.

Mrs Rimi Rai did not have any time for people who brooded. She herself had been very busy, visiting as well as hosting relatives for bijoya exchanges. All the additional cooking and cleaning had culminated in her annual Lakshmi Puja. This year Mrs Singha couldn’t perform the puja because of a death on her husband’s side, so Mrs Rai had the added satisfaction of seeing Mrs Singha's family in front of her Lakshmi too. In the break between Lakshmi Puja and Kali Puja two weeks later, she was busily sunning and laundering the winter woollens, a task rendered annoying by the unpredictable, unseasonal thundershowers.

Nandita and Rajib from the third floor were in Mauritius. They left last week, in a flurry of last minute packing and forgotten errands, and the building felt strangely silent without Nandita’s indie jazz floating out of the third floor windows or the noisy conversations of their friends at the recent bijoya get-togethers.

And where was Mr Rai? As Aniruddha brooded and Mrs Rai glared at the rainclouds, as Mrs Singha took stock of her candles and lamps and Minu pondered alpona patterns, even as Rajib fell down a Mauritian mountainside and bruised his ego more than his behind, Mr Rai was playing hookey from work. With six different newspapers and two Pujo annuals, he had retreated to his black and gold bathroom hideaway, hoping to make the most of the splendid peace there before Tapati returned on Kali Pujo and asked for her flat keys back.